They may be expensive, but compared to a tubeless conversion – or a new wheelset – the Tubo Road tubes from Tubolito are a cost-effective way of shedding some weight. They promise some puncture resistance benefits as well.
- Pros: Ride well, weigh next-to-nothing
- Cons: Undoubtedly expensive; orange valve stems
Yes, of course I said, 'How much?? For an inner tube?' but, having tried them, I've concluded that this is to look at the Tubo in the wrong way. We all like to save a little weight – there are whole areas of the bike industry devoted to it – and compared to a random butyl 700C tube grabbed from the garage, the Tubo offers a saving of 70g. That's per tube. So for an outlay of short of £60 you can shave 140g/5oz off the weight of your bike – at the wheels, where it counts.
Even if you have tubeless-ready rims, to buy a set of tubeless tyres plus the sealant and some compatible valves will cost you more than that per wheel. Plus I'd argue that, at 38g per tube, the Tubos weigh less than the sealant. Hill climbers will love these.
The Tubo is made from what the manufacturers mysteriously describe as a thermoplastic elastomer. It's shiny and quite stiff to the touch, like a thin rim tape. There's no seam, the tube being made in a continuous sausage which is then welded together at the ends, near the valve.
Fitting is a doddle and a lot less faff than a tubeless conversion. In fact, I'd say it's easier than a normal tube, for two reasons. One is that the Tubo mustn't be over-inflated outside the tyre – just a few psi to give it shape – so it stays small and there's plenty of room in the tyre to pop it in. Secondly, the orange colour makes it easy to see, so you know right away if you've got it pinched between rim and tyre.
There's no thread on the valve stem, just a rubber ring to help keep the water out. If you like, you can leave off the valve cover to save another 1g.
All this is of little consequence if the ride quality is bobbins. I really couldn't tell the difference. Tubolito reckons the rolling resistance is akin to a latex tube. Unlike latex, they've stayed pumped up for over a week.
The company claims some benefits in puncture resistance, too. According to its tests, it takes twice as much force to push a needle through the elastomer than a standard tube. I haven't had them long enough to produce any results that could be described as 'statistically significant' but I haven't had a puncture yet. I was sent a 40mm tube as well, and that's gone in the winter bike. We shall see how it stands up to a season of grit and filth. One slight downside is that you need a special patch kit, which contains five patches and costs €3.90.
The tubes take up little space in your pocket or seatpack, so are good to carry as a spare. For road bikes, they come in one size for 18-28mm tyres and two valve stem lengths. They can be used with extenders and are safe to use with disc or rim brakes. They also come in a range of mountain bike and cyclo-cross/touring sizes as well as BMX. There's a good online shop.
The guys who set up Tubolito say they came up with the idea when they were working together on materials and designs for loudspeakers for mobile phones. I think they've hit on something.
A very viable alternative to tubeless for saving weight at the wheel, and they promise puncture benefits too
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Tubolito Tubo Road 700c
Size tested: 42mm
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Says Tubolito: "Super Lightweight with only 38g – the Tubo-ROAD-700C offers 70g of weight saved compared to a standard tube – which can be crucial when it comes down to the wire. Suitable for disc and rim brakes."
Spot-on with the weight-saving, according to road.cc's Scales of Truth and my kitchen scales.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Made from a thermoplastic elastomer.
2x puncture resistance of a normal tube (Turbolito's tests)
Requires Tubo-Flix-Kit repair kit.
There's not much to go wrong here. The tough plastic tubes are welded into a hoop and the valve attachment is secure too.
From a ride point of view, they're very good. I couldn't tell the difference in ride quality from a normal tube. The weight saving is self-evident. Puncture resistance is claimed to be better and I haven't flatted one yet, but we'll see how they go over the winter.
Be careful fitting – you mustn't over-inflate them outside the tyre. The plastic valve stem looks frail, but they've survived the test period.
Undoubtedly significant here, saving 140g per bike over a standard tube.
If you're concerned about a harsh or draggy ride, stand easy.
Yes, they're expensive for an inner tube, but as a weight-saving measure they're pretty cost-effective compared with a tubeless conversion or a new wheelset.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Excellent. I'm convinced.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Light weight, good ride quality and easy to use.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The orange valve stems. They look naff sticking out of my nice wheelset.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Not sure we've ever tested anything quite like these. As mentioned above, compare the price to a pair of tubeless tyres plus conversion kit and sealant. It's about half the price.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Really, it's about time someone came up with a better inner tube and Tubolito has. Small, light, easy to use... You'll need a special puncture patch kit and they're not a small outlay but they do provide a good return on the investment.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10 My best bike is: Tomassini Prestige
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking